Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-54100-8
Fantasy Romance, 2009
Let’s quit with those “She kissed a girl!” jokes. I’m sure poor Kate Perry has heard all of them by now. Marked by Passion is her first book in the paranormal series The Guardians of Destiny. It’s somewhat like Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings – we have five powerful scrolls here, each one representing the elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Wood, and Water. They can never be brought together, because anyone knowing the contents of all five scrolls will… uh, do something bad, I suppose.
In this book, I’m told nobody seems to know what the consequences of reading all five scrolls are because apparently no one had done that before. In fact, since the Guardians (one for each scroll) are forbidden from reading the scroll they are guarding, they don’t even know what is in them. That’s the problem with this set-up: for all I know, the whole thing could have been some kind of cosmic joke and each scroll could very well contain Chinese letters that, when the scrolls are read in the correct order, spell out the phrase “You are the biggest sucker in the universe!”
Our heroine Gabrielle Sansouci Chin knows she is a Guardian because she has a broadsword-shaped brand that marks her as one. You see, a Guardian passes his or her power in the form of tü ch’i (which Gabe compares to the Force, you know, from Star Wars) to the next branded fellow in his or her line. When Gabe’s father Wu dies, she realizes that she has inherited the tü ch’i, whether she likes it or not. Our heroine only wants to finish some paintings in time for her grand exhibition, but now that she has a scroll in her possession, it seems like everyone, even old friends, is now out to get her. Where does cute guy Rhys Llewellyn figure in this picture? Of course, if you think he’s the bad guy and you know you are reading a romance novel, I sincerely hope you are new to the genre. Otherwise, I don’t know you.
Poor Gabe. She is not just hounded by what seems like everyone and his dog, her father, whom she is not on good terms with, has to return as a ghost to pester her about taking up training to become the baddest Guardian of them all. That’s the second problem with this set-up: Gabe spends a long time whining about wanting to avoid responsibility, which is understandable were not for the fact that it soon becomes clear that she cannot avoid her responsibility, so she may as well pucker up and start training hard on her kung-fu ninja powers. As a result, Gabe comes off as pretty dim despite a promising start as a strong heroine. She isn’t strong, alas – as the story progresses, the author turns Gabe into a dingbat twit who gets overpowered by a random bad guy on page 205 because she stops halfway in doing her Kung-Fu Hee-Ya Kicking Your Ass act to gape – gape – at the bad guy.
Gabe isn’t smart either. Long after Rhys has told her that he collects rare antiques, she’s still going, gee, she wonders why Rhys could have any motives to get his hands on her scroll. When the bad guy is unmasked, she’s shocked, but I have correctly deduced the bad guy’s identity and motive the moment this fellow shows up in the story. If you read this story, you will know that Gabe has a very good reason why she cannot trust Rhys. But of course she does, even after knowing why she cannot trust him; going to him for help and all, instead of listening to her father, because Rhys is cute and hot and sexy. On top of that, she treats a secondary character like complete crap because she’s not into love, no way, while at the same time she lets Rhys into her pants without a fight. I feel so, so, so sorry for this secondary character, and if you read the story, you will know why. Love sucks, sigh, especially for the poor guy because the woman he’s in love with has pebbles in her head where her brain is supposed to be.
As for Rhys, sigh. This story is told strictly from Gabe’s first person point of view, so Rhys comes off solely as an untrustworthy pretty boy jerk who steals his pick-up lines from Pepé Le Pew. Seriously, his lines are so corny, I don’t know how Gabe can stand being in his company for even a minute without bursting into laughter. Oh yeah, Gabe is stupid.
And finally, the romance. As I’ve said, Gabe doesn’t have any good reason to trust Rhys here, much less get naked with him, but this is another one of those paranormal romances where the author uses short-cuts when it comes to love. In this one, Gabe’s tattoo throbs and she gets so horny in the company of Rhys so of course this is love. How can it not be, eh?
Marked by Passion is actually a very readable story with easy humor, but unfortunately, I can’t find a way to shut down my brain while reading this story. As a result, the author’s dependence on the heroine’s stupidity to keep the story going stands out like a middle finger jabbing at my face right between my eyes.